Once you have engaged a diverse and representative set of partners who share a vision of your community’s early childhood system, you’re Set to begin the planning process.
Systems building is a collaborative effort.
Here is what you can expect to learn in this section:
Conduct a community scan to understand the existing landscape
Utilize data to inform your plan and vision for developing an equitable system
Develop a strategic plan that provides a roadmap for your community partnership’s shared agenda
Community scans (also known as needs assessments) are useful tools for building understanding among your community partnership. The purpose of a scan is to uncover root causes of persistent early childhood problems and successes. Demographic, economic and social data form the starting point for a community scan.
By identifying early childhood resources, key players and potential partnerships, you can broaden the view of the early childhood landscape. In addition to data requests, you and your partners can deepen your understanding of your community through community engagement techniques such as interviews, focus groups, community listening sessions and family story collections. Within your agreements, map out plans to disaggregate data so you can take a deep dive into outcomes for all families and children in your community.
Resource: See Virginia's recent comprehensive, statewide Needs Assessment, completed as a part of Virginia's Preschool Development Grant Birth-Five.
In addition to community scans, fiscal maps are a supplemental assessment tool to enhance understanding of a community’s assets and needs, identify financial and other resources present in a community, and shed light on gaps.
Resource: Visit the Fiscal Mapping Section on the Resources and Tools page to learn how to conduct a fiscal map of your community or region.
For some examples of recent fiscal maps in Virginia communities, see:
Analyzing your community scan and ﬁscal map with your partners and community stakeholders is a critical step in understanding data. By intentionally engaging families, community partners can gain insights into how community scan and ﬁscal map data play out in the community and what families care about most. As in all stages of collaborative work, it’s essential to engage a diverse range of voices in these conversations about data.
Utilizing data effectively requires an understanding of what, how and by whom data is collected, as well as the systems supporting data collection, security, hosting, governance and sharing. Developing data-sharing agreements and processes for data analysis, evaluation and security will support and protect your partnerships and help you move toward your vision. For an example of shared research agendas from various Virginia agencies, click here.
There are many ways to host and structure your conversations about data. Here are some resources to get started:
Discuss with your community partners:
A shared agenda outlines common interests and goals across early childhood care and education collaboration partners.
Essential elements of a shared agenda include:
Creating a shared research agenda aligned with your vision can help your community partnership utilize data, build capacity for strategic analysis and drive policy and programmatic improvements.
A strategic plan is community-led and collaboratively achieved. It serves as a long-term roadmap for your community partnership’s systems-building work. It is guided by a shared agenda and clear vision and mission statements, and grounded in data and information that tell your community’s early childhood story.
A strategic plan is ideally a living document that is easily updated to reﬂect progress and changes in your community. Including measurable goals, objectives and strategies that include timelines and responsibilities will allow your partnership to hold each other accountable.
As your community gets Set, utilize these resources for data, case studies and tested strategies from Virginia communities that hold promise for community partnerships: